Driverless cars being put through the paces in Virginia

Virginia News
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Driverless cars aren’t yet on the regular roads here in Virginia, but they are being put through the paces at a test road near Blacksburg.

The sound of screeching tires can be heard continuously along the road to nowhere that’s helping Virginia roll into the future of driving.  

The 2.2 mile long Virginia Smart Road, near Virginia Tech, is ground zero for autonomous driving training in the state.

8News got to tour the road and a look at the research being done there.

Ninety-five percent of crashes can be blamed on human error. Driverless cars would take the human element out of driving.

But, computers running the show create new issues.  

“There’s no shortage of questions that need to be answered before we see vehicles fully driving themselves on the road,” says Virginia Smart Road Spokesperson Luke Neurautter.   

That’s why researchers are putting cars through the paces on the smart road. It’s a lot like being on a Hollywood sound stage. It’s a cloudy day with nothing falling from the sky.  

Not far away, thought, it’s raining. They can change the weather conditions to make it rain or make it snow to be able to test out driverless vehicles.  

The newest section of road is more like street driving where the shipping can containers can be moved in to simulate buildings or homes, and radio controlled cars can simulate a child running out into a road to see if the car will stop.

“It’s technology that has a lot of promise,” Neurauter said. “it’s something that needs continued development that needs a lot of attention that everything the driving environment throws at it.”

A crash put the brakes on some real-world testing back in March after an autonomous Uber car, with a human monitor behind the wheel, hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. 

Officials say that’s why the Virginia smart road and its testing is so important.

“The smart road,” says Neurauter, “gives us a controlled and closed to the public test facility where we can test these features in a safe manner.”

True driverless cars on every corner like we’ve seen in the movies are still many years down the road, but some of the technology that helps computers drive cars is rolling out in new cars all the time.

“Whether it’s about cruise control, blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking,” Neurauter explains, “they’re available to a much wider population, we’re already seeing benefits from those technologies.”

You can learn more about the Virginia Smart Road here.

Researchers at The Virginia Smart road are also working to make motorcycle riding safer. Watch the ‘Web Extra’ below to learn more.

WEB EXTRA: Researchers working to make motorcycle riding safer

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